17:40:51 Ryan> Hello everyone and welcome to this evening's live chat!
17:41:25 Ryan> My name is Ryan and I'll be moderating/providing answers for you today - I'm currently the managing editor for both EssayEdge and Peterson's and have been working in admissions for nearly a decade now
17:42:09 Ryan> As attendees start to arrive, please feel free to submit questions as you think of them - they'll end up in my queue here and I'll start answering them around 7ET. I'll do my best to get through everything depending on how many are submitted
17:42:32 Ryan> If you're here early, check out the blog at our parent company, Peterson's, for some of our latest admissions-related content:
17:42:37 Ryan> blog.petersons.com
17:43:06 Ryan> Also, as a thank you for attending, you can write down coupon code CHAT40, which will save you $40 on any Standard or Premier editing service from EssayEdge!
18:08:25 Ryan> Ok, looks like we have a few people here and a few questions - I'll tackle what's in now and then will stick around to see if more show up!
18:08:29 Jordan>Question: So where did you go to college?
18:09:09 Ryan> Hi Jordan - I attended Yale - if you have any other questions about my college or application experience, feel free to ask
18:09:13 Ben>Question: Any thoughts on the biggest mistake you can make when applying?
18:09:36 Ryan> Hi Ben - haha, actually I have lots of thoughts on that
18:09:51 Ryan> I could probably type/talk for hours, really - but I'll try to condense it down for our purposes today
18:10:03 Ryan> The biggest mistake you can make when applying is trying to be someone or something that you're not
18:10:34 Ryan> Whether that's by exaggerating/falsifying information, writing what you think the application officers want to hear rather than what's actually true to you, or anything else along those regards
18:11:43 Ryan> It's hard for some applicants to accept this, but the truth is that nobody is a more compelling applicant than you are so long as you're true to yourself -that's really what much of the application process is about, trying to give the admissions officer an good idea of who you truly are as a person
18:12:10 Ryan> Try to keep that in mind - you obviously want to present yourself as well as possible, but you also need to be true to yourself throughout this long and complex process
18:12:14 Lex>Question: There are several schools I'm on the fence about applying to - do you have advice for how to decide?
18:12:30 Ryan> Hi Lex
18:12:45 Ryan> These are always tough questions, as they are inevitably different for each individual
18:13:04 Ryan> Most people have at least several colleges that they are totally committed to when it comes to applying, oftentimes one above all others
18:13:29 Ryan> But when you get past that list, there may be quite a few institutions that you've researched/visited/thought about and think **could** be a good fit, but aren't quite sure
18:13:50 Ryan> The decision always has to be your own, but I'd ask yourself a few things to help you decide:
18:14:15 Ryan> 1) Are you comfortable with the number of schools to which you'll definitely be applying, or do you think it's too low of a number?
18:14:52 Ryan> 2) Are there things that make you feel strongly positive about the schools you're on the fence with? If so, what are the negatives that make you feel otherwise?
18:15:11 Ryan> 3) Is there a counselor or parent who knows you well who could provide a second opinion? Sometimes that can be more helpful than you'd believe.
18:15:32 Ryan> I'm obviously hampered because I don't know you, so feel free to provide more information if you'd like.
18:15:34 Jordan>Question: Well did Yale love your essay?
18:16:51 Ryan> Hey Jordan - as a matter of fact, one of the things that ultimately convinced me to select that school was connected to one of my essays. One of the supplemental essays I wrote for Yale's application dove into my love of music, singing in particular. On some of the admissions documentation I received after being accepted, an officer from the school had included a hand-written note referencing that essay in particular and telling me about some of the many singing options Yale offers to its undergrads
18:17:25 Ryan> I can't say for certain that my essay was "loved" by the university, but I did earn admission and it was something that an admissions officer chose to comment on in a positive light - so I'd say that's a good sign!
18:18:14 Ryan> And final note on that, I can't remember how many essays Yale took back then - I believe it was at least 3-4, so it wasn't just the one piece of writing I submitted for them
18:20:01 Lex>Question: It's more that I want to make sure I get in somewhere
18:20:07 Ryan> Hey Lex - I totally hear you there
18:20:34 Ryan> With admissions being as competitive as they are today, it's understandable that many students are applying to more and more and more schools since the odds of getting accepted at any one seem to be dropping every single year
18:21:10 Ryan> That's a tough situation to be in, but before you start applying to additional schools just to try and guarantee a spot somewhere, make sure you're taking the time to thoroughly research each option
18:21:43 Ryan> There's no reason to apply to a school that you have serious reservations about or don't think you'd be truly happy at
18:22:02 Ryan> Even if you do get in, if attending ultimately doesn't make you happy or makes you feel like it's a bad fit, it's just wasted effort
18:22:37 Ryan> Only apply someplace if you truly believe you'd be happy and successful at that institution - don't apply simply to try and give yourself another option. Do your homework in that regard and then make these decisions
18:22:42 Jordan>Question: What was your act score ?
18:23:08 Ryan> I actually didn't take the ACT - I use the SAT, and this was back before they added the third section (the writing one)
18:23:17 Ryan> So it was only out of 1600 - I scored a 1570
18:25:15 Jordan>Question: Ok so would you say that an Ivy League institution only looks at act/sat scores or do they take a summary of both your essay and the score
18:25:54 Ryan> They absolutely look at both - standardized testing is a hot-button issue in admissions. Some believe it's of vital importance, others really take scores with a grain of salt
18:26:21 Ryan> One thing that's universally accepted, though, is that a test score only tells you a limited amount about who an applicant is and what his/her strengths are
18:27:35 Ryan> That's where all the other components of an application come in - GPA, course selection, recommendations, extracurriculars, etc. - every application is compiled into a file/folder and reviewed in full by one individual. All those components are considered together, each being weighted in different ways depending on the applicant, the admissions officer, the institution, and other factors
18:28:01 Ryan> A weakness in one area does not guarantee rejection just like a significant strength or accomplishment in one area doesn't guarantee admission
18:28:49 Ryan> Elite schools are obviously looking for students with demonstrated strong academic abilities who also have other skills/abilities/experiences/passions that they will bring to the institution - otherwise, admissions decisions would be based solely on grades and scores
18:28:55 Ryan> but they're not - and that's important to keep in mind
18:28:59 Jordan>Question: And how do you format the essays properly?
18:30:27 Ryan> Depends on the instructions in the application - most schools are pretty clear about exactly what they want - they provide a prompt/question, length limits, and then manner in which the essay should be composed/submitted. Pay attention to those directions and follow them carefully. If something is left vague, just do your best to make your writing as professional and presentable as possible
18:30:52 Ryan> No weird fonts, crazy formatting, colored paper, etc- you sometimes hear about gimmicks like that being a good idea to make applicants stand out, but that's pretty much never actually true
18:31:53 Jordan>Question: Yea because I am a terrible test taker, but I love digging into things. I have several leadership positions in school and I was thinking of applying to harvard because I have been receiving some emails from them recently but I feel the only thing preventing me are my scores, and I am retaking the act but so far a 25 doesn't feel like it represents my knowledge and learning level at all.
18:32:55 Ryan> 25 isn't a terrible score - and if I remember correctly, something like a full quarter of Harvard's admitted class has a score below 30
18:33:23 Ryan> If you feel that your other qualifications make you a viable candidate, then by all means take a shot at it - particularly if you've got a solid GPA across challenging classes.
18:34:10 Ryan> When test scores aren't that great, if academic performance shows consistent high achievement, most schools recognize that standardized testing is not the true barometer of your intelligence or capacity for academic challenge
18:35:09 Ryan> It's totally dependent on your situation, though - Harvard's a great school, but I also know students who went there and ultimately disliked it so much that they transferred somewhere else to find a better fit - so also make sure you have a reason for wanting to attend that particular institution beyond the fact that "it's Harvard"
18:36:47 Jordan>Question: Cool, I am owning ap calc this year and I have a 3.88 weighted gpa
18:37:09 Jordan>Question: So far from what I have read and what my friend has said after visiting and starting her own company at harvard, I am pretty impressed
18:38:01 Ryan> That's great! Like I say, if you have a true interest in the school, it seems like your credentials are solid enough that you could totally throw your hat into the ring - focus on your core strengths, emphasizing your academic abilities even within very rigorous classes, and any extracurriculars that you're particular accomplished in and proud of
18:38:45 Ryan> Also, try to select recommenders who've seen you excel within those particularly challenging classes - a glowing recommendation from an AP calc teacher would far outweigh any standardized test score in the mind of pretty much every admissions officer out there
18:40:04 Jordan>Question: How do you send in recommendations?
18:40:18 Ryan> Always check the website of your target school for info like this - for Harvard, for example:
18:40:42 Ryan> All the info you need is there - the admissions department is also more than happy to help guide you through the ins and outs of the process
18:41:43 Jordan>Question: Oh ok sorry just saw that thanks
18:42:17 Ryan> Not a problem - and seriously, don't ever hesitate to contact an admissions department directly - they're truly happy to help ensure anyone who wants to apply knows exactly what needs to be done and how
18:45:05 Jordan>Question: Ok awesome well those are pretty much all of my questions that I can think of right off the top of my head, thanks Ryan!
18:45:15 Ryan> My pleasure, Jordan - best of luck with all your applications
18:45:47 Ryan> And there are no more questions in the queue, so I'm going to call it a night - thanks for attending all, and remember that code CHAT40 can get you $40 off any Standard or Premier service from EssayEdge!